Last night’s unusual dining experience…Poisonous puffer fish?? Tom’s ruffled feathers…

I would’ve loved to try the pufferfish (click to see NG’s pufferfish video), a deadly poisonous fish if not cleaned properly, but I passed since it was flour battered and fried. “Chips” in Kenya translates to French fries, not potato chips, which Tom promptly figured out.

With approximately 26 hotels/resorts along a 10.2 km (6.34 miles) stretch of beach across the road, there are plenty of dining options for our planned three dinners out per week.  We’ve tried many so far, with nine more dinners out to go until we leave Kenya on November 30th.

It’s a little surprising to us that we’re running out of repeat options.  The issues primarily revolve around Tom’s picky taste buds than my restricted way of eating. A decent piece of grilled fish, chicken or beef, a side of veggies and I’m content.  Tom, on the other hand, is a much more particular diner, although he’s willingly tried many new items in the past year. 

Much to my liking, many meals in Kenya are vegetable-based included eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, and broccoli, all of which I can have. Unfortunately, many of the vegetable dishes are made with rice or flour, neither of which I can have.Tom only eats carrots and green beans. Thus, dining out is not always as easy as it may seem.
The entrance at the Baobab Resort and Spa. The white carving on the left of this appears out of place when in fact it was a post that was included in the photo. 

Last night we tried another resort new to us, Baobab Beach Resort and Spa, as we’ve made a point of doing as often as possible.\Oddly, few local residents dine at any of the resort’s restaurants. Each time our driver pulls up to the security gate at one of the resorts, the guards look inside the vehicle checking us out, asking why we’re there. 

When we explained that we have a dinner reservation, they looked surprised. Of course, we appreciate their conscientious “guarding” of each property. Most diners are hotel guests of the resort rather than “outsiders” like us.

Having made a reservation for last night’s dinner on Monday, receiving an email confirmation as required to get beyond the gates, we felt confident that our arrival would be welcomed and seamless. Last night, it was quite different than with past reservations.

The resort lobby had multiple lounging areas.  Crooked lamp shade.

After going through two guarded gates, Alfred dropped us off at the main entrance to the resort as the well-dressed security guard greeted us with the often-used enthusiastic “hujambo” (“hello”, the “h” is not pronounced); “karibu” (welcome) to which we responded, “hujambo” and “asante” (thank you). When explaining we were there for dinner only. He referred us to the registration desk. 

We explained that we were there for dinner, but the staff person couldn’t find our name in the system. Stymied, again, we explained we were not staying at the resort, but had a dinner reservation. 

The décor in many resorts is similar leaning toward somewhat of a Moroccan theme.

Then, he asked for written proof of our reservation. Although we always carry our passports and ID when going out, we’ve never been asked to provide written proof for a dinner reservation. The thought of digging out our travel printer for dinner reservations has never occurred to us.

After no less than 15 minutes while waiting at the desk with various staff members speaking to one another in Swahili, we were told that the only dining option was for the buffet, at KES $2000, US $23.45 per person, must be paid now at the reservations desk in advance. We’d never heard of such a thing. 

Preferring not to make a scene, plus with our driver already gone and with no other immediate dining options, Tom pulled out a credit card and paid the KES $4000, US $46.89 which included all fees and taxes (not tips).

The dining room at Baobab Beach Resort and Spa.

Upon signing the slip, the staff member explained that the buffet dinner included basic bar drinks and soda. I wondered why none of this was explained at the time of making the reservation; the price, the fact that it was a buffet, paying at the desk in advance and the drinks being included. Had that been the case, we would have been prepared, still keeping the reservation. 

Apparently, like an all-inclusive resort they were ill-prepared for “outsiders.” Surely, we couldn’t have been the first outsiders ever to arrive for dinner. It wasn’t that they weren’t kind and willing to assist. They just didn’t seem to know what to do with us.

Tom’s feathers were ruffled (although he kept it to himself) especially when we’d arrived early, thanks to Alfred’s substitute driver’s showing up 45 minutes prior to our requested pick-up time. We were told we’d be escorted to the restaurant when it opened in 15 minutes. 

When no one arrived to escort us, we headed to the restaurant on our own finding an excellent table for two by a window in order to take advantage of the ocean breezes. It was still very hot and we were both wearing long sleeves. Bugs? Heat? It’s often a trade-off.

Tom’s ruffled feathers.

From that point on, our evening was pleasant. By far, it was the greatest number of diners we’ve yet to see in any restaurant over these past months, most of which were European, based on the languages we heard spoken. 

At no time during our evening did we hear anyone speaking English, other than the Swahili speaking servers who were able to handle basic requests. We’ve often wondered if tourists from the US and Canada find this location too far to travel. After all, it is almost halfway around the world, further time-wise to travel than most people are willing.

The servers promptly brought our drinks, a beer for Tom, and bottled water for me (no ice tea available) and we headed to the massive buffet. With my smartphone with the still-cracked screen, I displayed the screen below with the Swahili translation for my food restrictions which has been extraordinarily useful. There were no lengthy lines at the buffet, although the area was filled with diners at the numerous food stations.

Basically, this boils down to the fact that I can have fish, chicken, pork, beef and non-starchy vegetables, nuts and mayo (the mayonnaise we’ve found here is made without sugar). No soy, no gluten, no starch, no sugary sauces, no potatoes,  no rice, no beans, and no desserts.   

As is often the case, the main chef is summoned, reads the list, nods in understanding, directing me to the foods that are acceptable. It’s actually easy. Of all the foods offered last night, I was able to have approximately 25% with many variations of grilled, sautéed, and steamed vegetables and a wide array of grilled meats, fish, lamb, and chicken.

My plate of coleslaw without dressing was cold and refreshing.

Much to Tom’s pleasure, he was able to have roast beef and mashed potatoes, although he tried several other offerings. (He eats whatever he wants when we eat out since I do all the cooking my way when we dine in). He feels well and isn’t gaining weight.  Of course, I’d love for him to stick with my way of eating all the time.  

Finally, many months ago I gave up staring at his plate of food, giving him the evil eye, and making less than subtle comments such as, “Are you really going to eat that?”  Now I say nor imply anything derogatory about his food choices when we dine out when he doesn’t complain about my healthful cooking when we dine in.

I was thrilled with this huge plate of food by the time we started eating, close to 8:30 pm.

Will we go back to Baobab?  Yes, we will now that we know “the drill.” The food was very good, the choices many and the ambiance and service were both good.

Tonight and tomorrow nights we’ll dine in. Extremely hot and humid again, a cold dinner is on the menu for both nights, our favorite subway type unwich, sandwich using lettuce leaves instead of bread, a side of fresh green beans, our usual coleslaw, and nuts for dessert. 

Although I couldn’t have this rice salad, I loved the presentation.
Tom visited the dessert bar for a few items, but of course, I just took a photo. It was early in the evening, the buffet not opening until 7:30 pm, and the dessert table was already being restocked.

Bringing up another great episode of The Blacklist on my laptop for a typical Sunday night here in Kenya, we began batting off the creepy crawlies, swatting off the mosquitoes and flying ants and, using our flashlights to check for poisonous crustaceans in every crevice or corner before we go to bed. 

But…dear readers, we’re content. 

The long hallways were lined with these lounging beds.  After dinner, they were filled with overstuffed guests, sipping on after dinner drinks.  Tom insisted on a photo after I’d shot his grumpy pose.  I complied.

Comments and responses Last night’s unusual dining experience…Poisonous puffer fish?? Tom’s ruffled feathers…

  1. Anonymous

    Tell dad, the only thing missing in the picture of him is a toothpick in his mouth and the newspaper blocking his face. That look I only know too well.

  2. Jessica

    Dad (Tom) says. "Instead of a toothpick, I now use a floss pick to save my teeth. Instead of a actual newspaper I read online."

    So, Tam, in some ways, we never change and in others, we do. It's fun to see ourselves evolve in our old age but some habits never fade away.

    As for that "look," I don't buy into it. As a result, it fades in minutes. Without an audience we seldom keep a scowl on our faces for long.

    Jess & Dad

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